The UK Metropolitan Police [official website] on Tuesday launched an investigation [press release] into whether Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive] violated privacy laws while collecting information over Wi-Fi networks for its Street View maps [website]. The probe was initiated in response to a complaint filed [JURIST report] by Privacy International (PI) [advocacy website], which claims that the information gathered in an independent audit [text, PDF] published by Google earlier this month proves that company's interception of unencrypted data was not inadvertent [JURIST report] and should lead to prosecution. The police will investigate whether Google's data harvesting techniques violated the Wireless Telegraphy Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act [texts], which regulate radio communications and ensure investigatory powers are used in accordance with human rights, respectively. According to PI, the preliminary investigation will take eight to 10 days and then, pending the results, will be escalated to a national team of specialists. PI Director Simon Davies stated that regardless of the probe's findings, the investigation will "give Google pause for thought" about future data collection techniques.
Several investigations have recently been launched into Google's unencrypted data collections to determine whether the Internet giant's practices have violated privacy laws. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal [official profile] announced Monday that he will lead a multistate investigation [JURIST report] against Google and requested additional detailed information from the company on its data harvesting procedures. Earlier this month, Australia commenced an investigation [JURIST report] into whether Google breached the nation's Telecommunications Interception Act [text], which prevents people from accessing electronic communications other than for authorized purposes. Additionally, Canada launched an investigation [JURIST report] into Google's unsecured Wi-Fi data collection to determine whether Google has violated the country's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act [text, PDF], which applies to private organizations that collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities. Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland have also asked Google to retain data collected in those respective nations. In a letter [text, PDF] sent last week to the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee [official website], Google claimed that its collection of private information was inadvertent and did not violate any laws [JURIST report].